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Ticks and Lyme's Disease

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
#1
A forum member recently got bitten by ticks and inquired about the danger of getting Lyme's Disease, a particularly debilitating largely incurable chronic illness not unlike glandular fever.

The disease is transmitted by ticks which attack deer, sheep, dogs, humans etc, often jumping onto bare legs from grass and bracken. It is endemic in Northern Spain and much of France (and the Scottish border where I live).

If you find a tick biting you, try to twist it off anti-clockwise, rather than just pulling it out (which risks leaving the mandibles, which carry the infection, in you). They like to gorge themselves full of your blood (carrying a sac which can be up to a cm long when full), so if they are attached to you, they're quite easy to spot (and kill).

If you catch them quickly enough, they are unlikely to infect you, but the NHS helpline advised me to take an antihistemine just in case (ask the farmacia for an antihistamínico). If the resulting bite mark looks much like a mosquito bite, there's nothing to worry about. If it looks like the "bullseye" of a target, then get yourself to a doctor as fast as possible.

I don't want to sound scare-mongering, but the shepherd on the next farm to mine got the disease a couple of years ago and he has had to take disability retirement and lost all his energy and general get up and go.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
#2
Thank you for this Alan.
And today was the day! Living in the sheep country of South West Scotland I am used to removing these nasties from my cat but, after gardening this morning, I discovered that the new scab on my arm was in fact a tiny tick. My daughter removed it with one those magic plastic twisters bought from any vet for a couple of pounds. It is worth all pilgrims buying a packet (they come as a pair, small for the hard-to-see little blighters and large for the clearly visible and repulsive larger variety. Canadian pilgrims will know all about the dangers of tick bites but I also know of someone locally here who lost her good health through a tick bite. Please include a packet of tick removers in your first aid kit, they weigh less than a pair of tweezers and are more effective at removing the whole of the parasite without, as Alan rightly points out, leaving behind the bits that can lead to infection.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April (2015) SJPdP to SdC; Porto to SdC April (2016)
#5
Thank you for the link NualaOC but I was surprised to read that the information contained in the NHS guidance advises pulling the tick out with tweezers with no mention of what Alan described above, that is the need to slowly twist the tick rather than a straight pull. The NHS method runs the risk of leaving the head behind in the skin. The plastic removers have a slot that slides under the body of the tick enabling you to grip as you twist.
 

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#7
My husband was retired from his job as a firefighter due to an unexplained illness which turned out to be Lyme Disease. After treatment he made a full recovery.

But not all ticks are infected. Remove them and keep a watch on the area. If a large, spreading rash appears then go to the doctor and insist on a test for Lyme Disease and get the antibiotics necessary.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, De Soulac, Norte, Madrid-Salv-Primitivo
#8
In pharmacies in Europe you can buy a small plastic tick remover, which works like tweezers, but it doesn’t snip the body off, as tweezers do, leaving the head inside. You grip the tick and carefully wriggle it out intact. I picked up some ticks on the Rota Vicentina. My fault, I was wearing long pants, rain pants and gaiters, but I went for a wizzie off track . . . . :oops: The tick remover is now an item in my 1st aid kit.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2000); Ch St. Giles (2013); Le Puy to SJPP (May/June 2015); vdlp 2016
#9
Canadian pilgrims will know all about the dangers of tick bites
Yes - unfortunately that is true. More and more you now see people out walking with their trousers tucked into their socks. We check ourselves and our pets carefully for ticks when we return home from walking. We now give our dogs anti-tick medicine for the entire year (instead of the half year that we used to) because the weather has been so unpredictable, the tick population is increasing, and last year the ticks persisted well into the winter. We pulled about a half a dozen ticks off one of our dogs on Christmas Day.

The main risk is when walking through, and rubbing against, long grass. If you find the tick within 24 hours, we are told, the risk of lyme disease (should the tick be carrying it) is greatly reduced. There has recently been talk of a free test that pharmacists can use to check to see if a tick does carry the infection. I'm not sure if it is available already or if it is something that is in the works.

In my area, southeastern Ontario, which is considered to be one of the worst in the country for lyme disease, the people who work outdoors clearing the brush under power lines are now allowed to stop working 15 minutes before the end of their shifts so that they will have time to check themselves for ticks.

From our perspective here - drawing attention to ticks and lyme disease is not scare-mongering at all - it is really important. Thanks, Alan for posting.

Mary Louise
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#10
Not fear-mongering, Alan, but definitely words to the wise.
I've had Lyme disease twice--once a gift from an unknown tick in California (i actually got sick and had a bull's eye rash), and the second time in Massachusetts (just the rash and no illness that I could detect).
Catch and treat this disease early and it's no trouble at all. But you need to know you've been infected and that takes a bit of daily vigilance. The ticks that carry Lyme (in the US anyway) are tiny...not the big gross dog ticks. More sesame seed size. And the card works very well to take them off.
I've gotten smarter now where I know there's Lyme and check for ticks every day. Sorry to know it's in Spain too. Obviously we're not the only ones who travel by plane!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#13
After reading this thread, I think I shall spray the bottoms of my pantlegs when I am spraying my backpack and sleeping bag. Hopefully, ticks will not like permethrin.
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#14
Having dealt with ticks for years growing up in the south and running around in the woods with my brother every summer, my best advice is prevention. Ticks live in high grass, brush, bushes, limbs etc waiting for a host. That's how you get them. You won't see them on an open country road paved with gravel. You won't see them crawling around in an albergue. Stay out of their habitat.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
#15
Given the recent reported number of pilgrims in Camino Frances, I guess that ecologically we are like a kind of centipede steamroller, swatting everything in the way.
The only bugs I have seen (in March, before Zubiri) were the pine processionary. These caterpillars were "processing" almost everywhere through the woods in nose-to-tail columns. They have urticant hairs, but if we avoid walking with sandals, I suppose we are safe.
In other less traficked Caminos, and where the path is also a drovers' road (as in the Pyrinees Piedmont), I suppose the risk may be higher, but I did nor read or hear about ticks last year, when I walked it.
 
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grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Yes
#16
Interesting and good information.

However....I do not recall anyone posting that there is a tick issue in Spain.
We have posts about almost everything, (good and bad) that happens along the way.
Bedbugs, flies, mosquitos, gnats, ants....but I don't remember ticks.

Maybe I have just missed it. Is it a problem? Are there reports of ticks?
 

Magwood

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (15 April 2013)
Camino Portuguese (1 May 2014)
Camino Mozárabe from Málaga (8 April 2015)
Camino del Norte & Camino Ingles (April 2016)
#17
I was that forum member mentioned in the op. I was making my way around the coast between Ribadeo and Ferrol. I was walking in wild places, totally off track, in waist high grass and fern, in shorts. I picked up two tiny visitors one day and removed them (with my finger nail) within a few hours. I have seen no follow up rash so am hoping all is well.

If anyone is interested in my week long 'off camino' adventure between Ribadeo on the Norte and Ferrol on the Ingles, check out this thread
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
#19
Interesting and good information.

However....I do not recall anyone posting that there is a tick issue in Spain.
We have posts about almost everything, (good and bad) that happens along the way.
Bedbugs, flies, mosquitos, gnats, ants....but I don't remember ticks.

Maybe I have just missed it. Is it a problem? Are there reports of ticks?
I never saw any and never heard anyone mentioning them on the CF.
I say it is not an issue to be concerned about for the average walker of the CF, but like anything else on this forum it's a topic that's bound to be inflated needlessly.
Prospective walkers of the Camino Frances reading this....don't worry about ticks.
 

jacobusg

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
2015 September
Camino Ingles
2016, June 6-12
#20
If you search for ticks on here you will see the discussion about ticks on the CF. I acquired Lymes last September, and as far as I am concerned I am still suffering the effects, about to get another blood test after I get back from the Ingles.

A fellow p mentioned he'd brought a ticktool because of his experiences in Denmark - I didn't know what he was talking about, I do now.
 

Vicky97

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015),
Camino del Norte (to Gijon, 2016),
Camino Portuguese (2017),
CF (2018)
#21
Also if you have had a tick it's wisely to draw a circle all around the place and if the redness and swelling is growing there is a big chance you have the Lyme's Disease
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#23
I don't know if our Sydney variety of ticks is similar to the ones in Spain, but they are very common where I live. We have found the easiest method of removing them is to spray with Aerostart (used to get motors started) as it instantly kills and freezes them and they fall out. Lyclear, which is a cream used to treat scabbies, is also useful for tiny ticks. As a preventive in the bush we use Deet.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2020
#24
I don't know if our Sydney variety of ticks is similar to the ones in Spain, but they are very common where I live. We have found the easiest method of removing them is to spray with Aerostart (used to get motors started) as it instantly kills and freezes them and they fall out. Lyclear, which is a cream used to treat scabbies, is also useful for tiny ticks. As a preventive in the bush we use Deet.
You Aussies are tough. What does that Aerostart do to your body? I remember that getting sprayed with Agent Orange which wasn't a good a idea. Good luck with that extermination project. We have plenty of ticks and deer here in MD.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#25
If you catch them quickly enough, they are unlikely to infect you, but the NHS helpline advised me to take an antihistemine just in case
That NHS advice doesn't make any sense at all! An antihistamine is a medicament to alleviate allergies, it is not a prevention against an infection with Lyme or similar. Buen Camino, SY
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
#26
And for those of us pilgrims walking outside of Spain in Austria, Germany and places further east one should be inoculated against Tick Bourne Encephalitis TBE before walking. As TBC serum is a slightly unusual request in Ireland (or the UK?) it may take a few days for the pharmacist to get it in and you need a couple of shots not just one so give yourself time. It's well worth it though the son of a friend of mine worked as a forester in Franconia as a young man and got TBE and was very poorly indeed. He's fine now thank God but is evangelical about preventative measures and inoculation.
 

psychoticparrot

psychoticparrot
Camino(s) past & future
April, May (2017)
#28
Did you know ticks can be romantic? o_O

Lyrics from country song "Ticks" by Brad Paisley:

'Cause I'd like to see you out in the moonlight
I'd like to kiss you way back in the sticks
I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers
And I'd like to check you for ticks."
 

MinaKamina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Jacobspad 2017
#29
That NHS advice doesn't make any sense at all! An antihistamine is a medicament to alleviate allergies, it is not a prevention against an infection with Lyme or similar. Buen Camino, SY
Agree! this is absurd advice. If only Lyme disease were so easy ...
To prevent tick bites: stay out of the bushes and high grass. Wear protective clothing. Spray with DEET. If you find you have been bitten by a tick and do not know how long it has been there: go see a doctor. A red rash does not always appear in case of Lyme, and the 24 hour limit for removing a tick is not supported by science.

Ticks maps of Europe published by the European Centre for Disease Control:
http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/vectors/vector-maps/Pages/VBORNET-maps-tick-species.aspx

Dermacentor reticulatus and Ixodes Ricinus may transmit Lyme disease, babesia and anaplasmosis. Not all ticka are infected, this may vary per (small) area.

A word of caution to all solo pilgrims: in tick infested areas please use the bathroom and not the bushes, because who will inspect your private parts for possible tick bites?
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Who knows! ;-)
#32
And for those of us pilgrims walking outside of Spain in Austria, Germany and places further east one should be inoculated against Tick Bourne Encephalitis TBE before walking. As TBC serum is a slightly unusual request in Ireland (or the UK?) it may take a few days for the pharmacist to get it in and you need a couple of shots not just one so give yourself time.
Has to be ordered in the UK and costs something £200 a shot (from memory...) I decided against it and the nurse agreed, telling me the best prevention was NOT to get bitten haha. I was ever so careful (long clothing) and avoiding long grass at all cost. I was only told it was a problem once in Eastern countries like Bulgaria... Didn't know you could get it closer to home:eek:
 

Magwood

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (15 April 2013)
Camino Portuguese (1 May 2014)
Camino Mozárabe from Málaga (8 April 2015)
Camino del Norte & Camino Ingles (April 2016)
#34
I have just made a doctor's appointment here in Spain to be on the safe side. Will give feedback on what I am advised.

I would reiterate that I was walking very much off Camino at the northern most tip of Spain, rather foolishly in shorts through long grass.

I did also pick up a tick when walking the Camino Portuguese, but again when walking through long grass to reach a great looking picnic spot. That time I was wearing long pants and removed myself from the area double quick.

The phrase 'some people never learn' comes to mind!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
#35
Maybe you could use a selfie stick to take photos for examination! :p:p
@C clearly:
I once picked up a number of ticks while vacationing on Long Island, in an area since known for Lyme Disease. I discovered while bathing that evening that ticks will abandon bodily areas which are underwater. Apparently, they need to breathe. If you should happen to have access to a bath after encountering ticks, fill it with water and have a soak. You may see them abandoning private areas which you would much rather not have tick infested.
 

Magwood

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (15 April 2013)
Camino Portuguese (1 May 2014)
Camino Mozárabe from Málaga (8 April 2015)
Camino del Norte & Camino Ingles (April 2016)
#36
On the subject of ticks, but thankfully not attached to me, I noticed that my cat was hosting an unwanted visitor. I don't have a purpose-built tick remover so used tweezers. My normally very assertive moggie kept absolutely still whilst I performed the operation with a twist and a pull. I immediately jettisoned my spoils in a glass of water and was amazed to see two of them doing the breast stroke. Two removed where I thought there was only one and with all legs in place - result!
image.jpeg
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#37
Completely off topic, but I have to say/ask:

Excellent photo! What camera/lens did you use?

Buen Camino without ticks, SY
 

Magwood

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (15 April 2013)
Camino Portuguese (1 May 2014)
Camino Mozárabe from Málaga (8 April 2015)
Camino del Norte & Camino Ingles (April 2016)
#38
Completely off topic, but I have to say/ask:

Excellent photo! What camera/lens did you use?

Buen Camino without ticks, SY
Panasonic lumix tz60. Not the most recent model, but the cheapest for the spec. Used in macro zoom mode.
 

Daxzentzu

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
FRANCES (2018) in planning
#40
The tried and tested way that I know is to put a blob of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the blighter. It denies it oxygen
It will let go without a mark after a few hours
Never brush them off you may leave the "mouth parts" in your skin - pretty strong likelihood of secondary infection
 
Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#41
The tried and tested way that I know is to put a blob of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the blighter. It denies it oxygen
I've read that petroleum jelly works but also that it is not recommended. I recently had the occasion to buy a check card sized card for removing ticks in a German pharmacy as someone had recommended it to me. I don't know whether it is available elsewhere (it's not my thumb in the photo below). Easy to carry in your wallet so you always can have it with you. It's got a small magnifying glass and one small and one larger notch for removing ticks of different sizes:

 
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Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#42
This is again an old threat that has been resurrected and a number of posters said earlier in the thread that there are no problems with ticks in Spain and on the Camino Frances. That's out-of-date news. I posted elsewhere that the town of Fromista for example put a warning about ticks on their website this year (2018). However, I don't think it's a huge problem (yet) in Spain.

Borreliosis or Lyme disease is one thing, FSME (German abbr) or TBE (tick born encephalitis) is another one if you walk in countries other than Spain and Portugal, in particular Austria, Southern Germany, Switzerland, Eastern France. Not sure whether to get a vaccination or not for TBE. I've been thinking about it.

And I do hope that the British NHS helpline has updated their advice by now. Antihistamines to fight a potential bacterial infection ... good heavens.

Also, despite what you often read or are advised about, a rash with a typical bullseye pattern does not always develop after a Lyme disease infection, only in a certain percentage of cases.

PS: Lyme = caused by bacteria; TBE = caused by virus
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Norte 2014
CF 2017
Le Puy to Moissac 2018
#43
I was bitten this year by a tick carrying rickettsia on the GR11 three days east of Roncesvalles. The village doctor said there had been other cases this year but none in previous years. She prescribed antibiotics which were effective but they need to be taken asap. Subsequent blood tests showed there had been a rickettsia infection. Do please take tick bites very seriously, carry a tick removal tool and seek medical attention.
 

Felice

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
#44
I never saw any and never heard anyone mentioning them on the CF.
I say it is not an issue to be concerned about for the average walker of the CF, but like anything else on this forum it's a topic that's bound to be inflated needlessly.
Prospective walkers of the Camino Frances reading this....don't worry about ticks.
Agree entirely about not worrying about ticks. Walking along the CF you are unlikely to come across them.

BUT forewarned is forearmed. Until relatively recently in the UK, most people, and also many doctors, knew nothing about ticks and Lymes disease. Had they been knowledgeable, quite a lot of misery would have been avoided. There's been a steady stream of information coming out in the papers after some people who had caught Lymes disease got the press to highlight the issue because it had taken years for them to be diagnosed, so great was the ignorance.

So read the advice, be prepared, and don't worry. You'll know what to do if you or someone you know picks up a tick. As my daughter did last week in Wales during a climbing holiday.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#45
Agree entirely about not worrying about ticks. Walking along the CF you are unlikely to come across them.
@Felice, you read comments from 2016 but not the ones from 2018 ;). See just one example below (even if you don't speak Spanish I'm sure you can make out the words salud (health), garrapatas (ticks), Castilla y Leon and los peregrinos del Camino de Santiago en particular). Or read the report of the poster immediately before your own comment! Ok about not to worry but they are there this summer.

Salamanca 24h | 21/07/2018 - 12:00h.

Agustín Álvarez, el director general de Salud Pública de la Junta de Castilla y León ha reconocido que esta temporada hay muchas garrapatas debido a las lluvias de los últimos meses y los bruscos cambios de temperatura.

De esta manera, ha señalado ciertas medidas de precaución de cara a andar por el campo y ha mencionado a los peregrinos del Camino de Santiago, en particular. Principalmente, recomienda usar calcetines blancos y altos, y manga larga en camisetas. Además, revisar el cuerpo al finalizar de la jornada. Aparte de eso, es necesario el cuidado en mascotas a través de repelentes y antiparasitarios.
 
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Via2010

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
06/07 & 12 Camino Francés, 08-10 Via de la Plata, 13/14 & 17 Camino Portugués, 18 Camino Primitivo
#46
The tried and tested way that I know is to put a blob of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the blighter. It denies it oxygen
It will let go without a mark after a few hours
Never brush them off you may leave the "mouth parts" in your skin - pretty strong likelihood of secondary infection
This is the worst advice you could give!

In Germany they warn us, not to remove ticks by putting oil, Vaseline or glue on them, because before they will die of suffocation they will vomit and thus bring all the bacteria they carry in their stomach into your body.

Just pull them out slowly by using a tick-card or a twizzer. Doing it clockwise or the other way round is also complete nonsense. A doctor in our Hospital thought he should teach me how to remove ticks and said I should do it clockwise and never try it on my own. This was the only occasion when the head of the tick got stuck in my skin. I have got a lot of experience in that thing because my 4 cats collect them regularily and sometimes they switch on me.

According to statistics, only up to 30% of the ticks in Germany carry lyme-disease. And of those Maximum 10% infect people by their bites. Nevertheless remove a tick as soon as possible and see a doctor if red circles develop around the place of the bite. Back home, to be sure, have a test when you had been bitten on your camino because not all infections develop red circles.

BC
Alexandra
 

Felice

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
#47
@Felice, you read comments from 2016 but not the ones from 2018 ;). See just one example below (even if you don't speak Spanish I'm sure you can make out the words salud (health), garrapatas (ticks), Castilla y Leon and los peregrinos del Camino de Santiago en particular). Or read the report of the poster immediately before your own comment! Ok about not to worry but they are there this summer.

Salamanca 24h | 21/07/2018 - 12:00h.

Agustín Álvarez, el director general de Salud Pública de la Junta de Castilla y León ha reconocido que esta temporada hay muchas garrapatas debido a las lluvias de los últimos meses y los bruscos cambios de temperatura.

De esta manera, ha señalado ciertas medidas de precaución de cara a andar por el campo y ha mencionado a los peregrinos del Camino de Santiago, en particular. Principalmente, recomienda usar calcetines blancos y altos, y manga larga en camisetas. Además, revisar el cuerpo al finalizar de la jornada. Aparte de eso, es necesario el cuidado en mascotas a través de repelentes y antiparasitarios.
Katharina, thanks for that post.

I was actually trying to balance out the post I quoted from, which came over to me as a bit too laid back about the danger of ticks. There's no point in worrying about ticks (or bedbugs for that matter) - or you'd never walk a camino. You need to take them seriously, and to be aware and knowledgeable about ticks, and what to do if bitten.

In fact, thinking about that post again, there is everything to be said for 'inflating' the topic - to really get the word out there on the trail. It's only get to get worse so the more people who know about the dangers of ticks, and what to do, the better.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2035 km of the way to Saint James in Galicia done.
#48
@Felice, totally agree. It's my impression that talking about a topic in a forum can elicit opposite reactions: for some, it means causing unnecessary alarm so it shouldn't even be mentioned as it will keep people away from walking caminos and for others it means, ok, I didn't know that, good to know.
 


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